Zanshin can be translated literally as “the remaining mind” or “the lingering mind”. It is a concept found in Zen and Budo that emphasizes a continued alertness to an undertaking. In other words, it is a state of mind of lingering vigilance and awareness of the surroundings, a mind that is still or relaxed yet alert and is totally present in every moment of any given action or activity. It is a principle of never letting one’s guard down, even when one’s victory seems certain.
It is a concept of total engagement, a mind that is always ready. In Aikido, it can be interpreted as having a state of mind that is always prepared and alert for any possible danger from all sides, even from behind in a given martial situation. Although there are many ways of training Zanshin, I have found that the most basic way of training this concept is through taking your training seriously or in a broader sense, taking anything you do seriously. One can not start to learn awareness and alertness if in our training, we are just playing around. We should train with the idea of “life and death in a single strike” like the founder said.
We have to remember that in Aikido, all movement should be purposeful, and deliberate.
To be able to be completely aware of what we are doing, to be fully engaged in the moment, and to have a lingering alertness even after the technique is “finished”, all these constitute the training of Zanshin. A good tip for training this is being wary of that feeling of “self-satisfaction” or “sense of accomplishment” after a throw or technique. This is a point where concentration drops. Instead of having this secret moment of gloating and smugness, we should train in a way wherein we are ready and focused should the uke (aggressor) try to attack again. It is the training of minimizing any lapse in concentration or any form of absent-mindedness.
There is always harmony in our movements and to grasp the harmony, we train in Zanshin as a state of being fully present in whatever action we do. There should always be a purpose in our actions; and there should always be a deliberate intention in why we do a certain action the way we do. And there should be no moment where focus and concentration wavers. It can also be viewed as training in the elimination of excess and the practice of efficiency- maximum impact, minimum effort/movement. With this in mind, there is no wasted effort and no useless movements.
Zanshin is being totally immersed in the task at hand.
It is walking when we walk, sitting when we sit, standing when we stand, and fighting when we fight. Zanshin is always paying attention throughout the course of whatever we decide to do. It is a mental state of preparedness, alertness, awareness, and engagement; and the focus should not be isolated but all encompassing. It is a principle of unbroken concentration and total awareness. In our training and our daily lives, let us not forget to appreciate every aspect of every situation so as not to take things for granted. Let us fully experience the present.
(Please also see: “Fudoshin: The Indomitable Spirit“)